Productivity Hack: Do Not Disturb



Phone calls, Skype Calls, e-mails and other Instant Messaging – these are all interruptions we deal with every single working day. Annoying, I know. And it kills productivity. Taking that call or dealing with that e-mail is not the thing which takes time (well, maybe a little) but it’s the fact that you need to re-focus which has the negative impact on your productivity.

Each time your focus is pulled away from a task, you need to shift your focus to this new task – answering Skype or the phone – and then you have to re-focus again on the task you were busy with in the first place. This could take a few seconds or even a few minutes – depending on the intensity of the task.

And this is exactly where time is lost and productivity is lowered.

The solution is simple: Eliminate those potential interruptions.

Turn your phone off while working on tasks. Close your inbox. Change your Skype status to “Do Not Disturb”. People can leave a message and that e-mail can wait for an hour or two. Do not give in to the “available on demand” phenomena. Eradicate interruptions from your working life. This very small change in habit can have a massively positive impact on your productivity.


Are you feeling overwhelmed – too much to do in too little time? Are you worried about your productivity and time management? Here’s a free Productivity and Time Management Audit to help you take control:




E-mails: The 3 Minute Rule

3 Minute Rule

One thing which can seriously affect our time management and productivity is e-mails. We get a flood of them each day – some spam, some with good information and some needing specific action on our part. The problem is that it can rule our lives – if we allow it to.

One way I have found to combat this issue, is implementing the 3 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works: When checking your e-mails, ask yourself this question: “Can I deal with this issue in less than 3 minutes?”

If the answer is “yes”, deal with the e-mail and file it away. If the answer is “no”, move it to a folder named “To Be Actioned”.

Schedule time in each day to deal with all e-mails in the “To Be Actioned” folder – deal with the entire batch in one session. Then file it away.

Working with the 3 Minute Rule has many benefits:

  • Ensures your inbox doesn’t get clogged up
  • No e-mails (and actions) slips through the cracks
  • Saves time (less toggling between tasks)
  • Helps to keep you focused on specific tasks

Personally, I only check e-mails three times per day – first thing in the morning, midday and towards the end of the day. I use the 3 Minute Rule on all three occasions every day and slot in one task session per day, to deal with e-mails in my “To Be Actioned” folder. This is usually in the late afternoon. At the end of each day, my inbox is clear and I have attended to all e-mails for that day (either filed, replied or deleted).

Acton point: Implement the 3 Minute Rule in your office for one week and note the difference it makes to your e-mail handling, time management and productivity.


Protecting your Company’s Name

Today is guest blogging day at Talking Business, so we have brilliant legal insights from Patricia Barclay (Bonaccord).

When you incorporate a company you have to choose a name that is not already in use however even slight deviations can be allowed. Around 40 companies are registered using the name BONACCORD. Some sound quite similar: Bonaccord Lets LLP, Bonaccord Leasing Limited, Bonaccord (Real Estate) Limited, Bonaccord Properties Limited and so on. I do not know if these businesses are related but regardless there is little to stop me independently setting up another called for example Bonaccord Furnished Lettings Ltd. Clearly there is a risk of confusion here which if I am first on the market with a service I would like to avoid.

The most effective way of protecting your company name is to register the key element – here Bonaccord – as a trademark in those countries where you provide goods or services. This is not usually expensive and in the UK can cost as little as £160. Registration lasts for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. Registration allows you to stop anyone else using the name in relation to the same goods or services including as a company name. In general you can register your own marks following the advice at although professional advisers are available.

You can also register the name of your company as a domain name with the most popular suffixes in your sector eg .com or This is not nearly as powerful as a trademark but it may dissuade genuine traders from setting up with a similar name as most people want to secure a good domain name and if they cannot get it may well look for another name.

Whether registering a trademark or a domain name be sure that it is registered in the correct name which will usually be that of your business and not in that of an individual manager or a supplier such as a web designer.
Finally be watchful for anyone using your name or trademark inappropriately and take rapid action. In addition to normal legal redress you may also be able to obtain help from Trading Standards if the public are being misled.

Patricia Barclay of Bonaccord is an internationally experienced life sciences lawyer with extensive board level experience which means that she brings pragmatic, commercially relevant solutions to businesses who need help commercialising life science research or ideas.

Digital Marketing

Today is Guest Blog day at Talking Business and we have Joanne Dolezal providing insights into digital marketing.

Digital Marketing (also known as Internet, Web or Online Marketing) is a collective name for marketing activity carried out online, as opposed to traditional marketing through print media, live promotions, TV and radio advertising.

It allows for accurate targeting and excellent reporting, making it far easier for even the lay person to judge whether digital marketing activities are having the desired effect or not.
Digital Marketing covers everything to do with your website, including Search Engine Optimisation – getting found online – and measuring where visitors to your website are coming from, what they’re at and which pages are most popular, among other things.

Driving visitors to your website, especially an e-commerce website, is essential if you want to achieve a healthy level of sales. Tactics include Search Engine Marketing – anticipating and targeting the language customers use to find products and services like yours – and Pay Per Click advertising – display adverts online.

Social Media is also a Digital Marketing tactic and works well to raise awareness of your brand and create weak links: it takes time, thought and regular effort to build trust with potential customers.

Email Marketing and Mobile Marketing allow you to send targeted communications to a (potential) customers inbox or mobile phone. Both require the recipient’s permission and are just as effective for Customer Retention as for Customer Acquisition. Mobile Marketing in particular has evolved from SMS (text message) based communications to encompass Mobile ‘friendly’ Marketing, with developments in smartphone and tablet technology. If your website is hard to navigate or looks too small on a smartphone screen – and 40% of google searches are made on a mobile device – you may be losing a lot of custom unnecessarily.

Compared to traditional marketing methods such as direct marketing, trade shows and advertising, Digital Marketing often requires a much smaller investment (important for small and medium-size businesses and start-ups).
The rapid growth of Digital Marketing is due to ever-increasing access to and speed of the Internet. Digital Marketing channels are increasingly effective at generating revenue and raising awareness.

The differences between tradition ‘campaign’ style marketing and digital marketing are:

1. Targeted versus Broadcast – over time it is possible to gather and analyse enough data on your target customers that you save considerable time and effort communicating with them. Either via email or mobile marketing, you can send direct messages to your target and past customers to build trust and loyalty. Imagine how much time, money and uncertainty this saves you as you can track opens, clicks and conversions online.
2. Flexibility versus Committed – because you have more control over the who, what, when, where of digital marketing you can control and modify the start and end of any activities within reason, rather than finding you are fixed into a longterm commitment that is either not working for you – based on digital metrics – or not generating the ROI (Return on Investment) you require. Response times are much faster too and campaigns can be set up and delivered in hours, rather than weeks or months.
3. Circular versus Linear – digital marketing encourages you to research, target, test, modify and repeat and tends to be a continuous circular process of learning and modification until you get it right. Traditional marketing campaigns take a lot of planning, but once they’ve ‘left the building’ there’s nothing you can do to change them.
4. ‘Low’ or ‘no cost’ versus Expensive! – print and broadcast media, whilst still effective at brand building, are beyond the means of all but a few businesses. The proliferation of TV networks and channels, online publications and even digital broadcasting have meant that it is ever harder to reach the whole population… but who wants to anyway? You want the ‘right customers’ for your business as they’re more likely to buy from you. ‘Laser vision’ trumps ‘spray and pray’.

If you want to know more about how to apply digital marketing to you business, why not join our next workshop, Digital Marketing ~ Decoded on 15th October 2014 to learn more about this area of marketing. You will gain a clear understanding of how to measure and monitor online traffic and by using this information, you will be able to update your marketing campaigns to drive increased traffic to your business.

If you can’t attend in person but would like to know more, get in touch.

Joanne Dolezal is lead consultant at Dolezal Consulting and a lecturer in Digital Marketing at NESMA, helping to deliver programmes for Digital Marketing Institute and Chartered Institute of Marketing. Joanne holds an MA Marketing and Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing. Joanne has worked across the public sector, private sector and with charities on marketing, branding and communications.

Dolezal Consulting provides marketing driven business growth using an improved strategic focus, a clear marketing plan and delivery through the best possible channels for your business and budget.

The Treasure is in the Follow-up

Treasure is in the followup

If content is king, contact is the super-duper king of all kings! It doesn’t matter if they are your current clients, past clients or prospects – you need to be in constant contact with all people connected to your business. That is, if you want a successful business.

Too many business owners, managers and sales people treat their prospects / leads like one-night-stands. You know….one date and no contact again there-after…sad really.

In recent studies done by the NSEA, a few very interesting statistics came to light. Around 49% of salespeople never follow up with their prospects. Typical one-night-stand tactics. So, they will get an enquiry, reply….and that’s it! No follow-up. Around 27% of salespeople at least bother to make a second contact, but only 10% make more than three contacts with a prospect.

And here’s where it gets really interesting: 80% of sales are made only after the 5th contact with a prospect.

For those “one-night-stand” salespeople out there – only 2% of sales are made after the first contact. That means you are losing out on 98% of your potential sales! Scary thought, indeed.

Now is the time to analyse your prospect follow-up system – and while you’re at it, why not revisit your client care follow-up system too. Remember: Contact is the real king.

Manage a Realistic To-Do List

Look at your To-Do list. Think about each task on that list. How much time do you think each task will realistically take? Now if you tally up the total amount of time needed to accomplish all your tasks today – how much time is that? Scary, isn’t it!

And that is exactly the problem we all face every day. We add more tasks to the list than we can ever dream of completing. We think a task will only take 15 minutes, but in reality, it takes closer to 30 minutes to complete. This leads to a “backlog” of tasks left over from the day before (or last week) and we never seem to catch up – fighting a wish-list instead of managing a To-Do list.

I have found, the best way to conquer this problem, is to slot each task into my diary and treat it as a meeting / appointment.

When I do my weekly planning, I look at each task needing completion and determine a realistic time frame needed. I then prioritise each task (I use colour coding) and slot the highest priority tasks into my diary, along with all the other meetings and commitments. Working my way through the priority list, I slot tasks into my diary – ensuring that all high and medium priority tasks are scheduled for that week. Low priority tasks only get done if and when all higher priority tasks are done, or I delegate it to someone else.

Realistically looking at time frames for tasks ensures that we don’t overload ourselves. Clearly, having 10 hours’ worth of tasks in any 8 hour day will not be achievable. And without proper planning and prioritisation, it is easy to get stuck with the smaller, less important tasks instead of getting the high priority tasks done.

Commit to prioritising, time framing and scheduling your To-Do list for next week (and every week there after).

When to ask clients for referrals

Clients have much more value than “merely” the fee they pay you for your service or product. Long-term client relationships can mean referrals, testimonials, repeat business and much more – if nurtured properly.

One question I get asked often by clients is: “When should I ask my clients for referrals”. The answer is: At any point, from the beginning of your relationship until the end of the relationship. The skill lies in how you ask at the various points in the relationship. There is however one rule which is vital at any and all times you ask for referrals. It is this:

It is not about getting business; it is about sharing value.

No matter when or how you ask a client for a referral, you have to bring this message across clearly. Yes, you want business, but focus on the value you can bring to the referral’s business / life. People love sharing value. If your client clearly understands that you wish to share your valuable skills and knowledge with their contacts, they’ll be happy to refer to you.

We can break the client relationship process into three basic stages: Before transaction (proposal stage), during transaction (project underway) and after transaction (project concluded).

Before Transaction (Proposal Stage)

During this stage, prepare the client for giving you referrals in the future. Make it clear that you will be expecting referrals at a later time. Use language which will bring across that you do business by referral, that you expect referrals from clients and that you wish to share your expertise with their contacts. You might find some clients are perfectly willing to give you referrals at this early stage, before actually working with you. The mere act of preparing them in this way prompts referrals.

During Transaction (Project Underway)

Focus on the progress you have made and the results the client has already experienced in working with you. Keeping the focus on value, ask the client if he/she can think of any contact that might benefit from the same level of value. Ask for the actual names of these contacts and write them down. This conversation might prompt referrals immediately. If not, ask the client if he/she would be willing to refer those people to you, at the conclusion of your project.

After Transaction (Project Concluded)

At this stage, your client should be delighted with your service or product. They should now have first-hand experience of your excellent skills, knowledge and service. Now is the time to be “slightly assertive” and ask for those referrals (if this client has not yet provided any). Refer back to the names the client gave you, during the transaction. Ask if he/she would be willing to refer you at this point. Remember to always focus on the value they have just experienced and the fact that you want to share that with their contacts.

Don’t drop the ball with the client after the transaction is concluded. Remain in contact, continue sharing value and continue getting referrals. Long-term relationships will provide you with referrals – often long after your transaction concluded.

A Stock Shot will do! No, actually it really wont!

Today is guest blogging day at Talking Business, so we have Laura Pearman of Pearman Photography giving her insights on stock photos and more.


Have you found yourself finishing up the important bit of writing out slides for a presentation you have coming up, or better yet, planning out your social media, and at the very last minute thought to yourself “Pictures!”, “I’ll whack in a few Pictures!”. Where do you go? Google? A stock site? Or frantically raid your phone for “something that will do”?

Well, Tiana has asked me here today to tell you all about how a little bit of planning and consideration once a year (even bi-annually) could do serious wonders for building your brand and reputation when it comes to the level of imagery you use in your business.

Take a quick look at these shots:

Pic 1

Pic 2

Which is more appealing?

Which do you think looks more expensive and luxurious?

The first image, right?

So lets go through both of these images and take a good look why you felt these things? The first one has a real model in for starters, its so much easier for you to see how the product fits on her head, and the overall effect it has on her appearance. The colours, light, pose, expression and angle in which this image has been shot has been carefully thought out and planned. You feel the model does seem bridal, ethereal, calm, and she is lucky to be wearing those precious jewels. The business retailing these must be quite classy, they clearly know a thing or two about style and fashion, I’m sure they’d be able to help pick out the right bridal hair band for just about anyone who would want one.

Lets address this second one then. That watermark is a bit annoying isn’t it? Your eye gets distracted by it, and you stop looking at the product and start trying to decipher what it says. There is a serial number in the bottom right hand corner. What does that tell us? I think it probably means there is more options for this band, it probably comes in a range of shades and that number changes each time the shade or colour changes. Who is that hand? Where is that hand based? It looks like a factory or back-room (that’s due to the bluish lighting by the way). How thick are those feathers? I bet they aren’t even real. I come away from this image practically smelling the polythene bag it was mass packaged in. How does it make you feel?

What if in actual fact the first image was all fake jewels, and what if the silver fleur-de-li on the second image was solid Britannia silver. Would you see the actual value shift in either product knowing this? Probably not.
Now I know this is an extreme example, but these thoughts run through peoples sub consciousness when they are assessing a possible future purchase. When making any online purchase the cynic in us demands answers to the reliability of the seller, we do little checks to ascertain whether sending this person our hard earned money is a risky decision or not.

What do the images you use on your site say to potential buyers or investors?
The number one reply I imagine you are all saying/yelling back at me on this topic is something along the lines of “Yeah, Laura thanks for that, I kinda knew that anyway. But really, tell me, how could I possibly spring for a pro photographer to come and help me out?” That’s what this next bit is about.

So by now I’m hoping you will see how badly a DIY job could affect your brand, your reputation and then ultimately your sales. So lets look at the next one on the list, Stock images.

For those of you not in-the-know a stock image is created by a pro or amateur photographer. Chances are they do something else to earn their living, because the money they get paid every time an image they made gets used is a pittance. Picture it, lines and lines of unhappy photographers working in jobs that don’t satisfy them, subjecting their loved ones to this dissatisfaction, noticing the aches and pains in their hearts manifesting into real serious medical issues. The pain! The Torment! Ok, ok, so yes I’m laying it on a wee bit thick there, but you get my point.

The real masters behind this racket are the agencies. The ones who own all that lovely powerful SEO, the ones whose images (that they own 100% by the way) pop up on your screen when you type “picture of a happy office worker” into your google search bar.

You love this image, it feels like just the right thing for you. This is going to make your presentation soooo professional. Its going to make you seem on the top of the pile of your competitors. Then you find this screen:

Pic 3

The first thing here to note is the very small text at the top: “Good for small projects”. Now that means in loose terms that you are allowed to use this image in the presentation you want to stick it in today. But, if that image does win you the big job you are going for, then chances are, in order to comply with copyright law, you will have to buy some more credits to be allowed to do this legally.

The guide here gives you an average price of £166 for enough credits to see you through today’s needs.
Lets say you pop another two or three images in the presentation to really show yourself off.
You’d now be looking at a bill of £498. Lets call it £500.

Remember what I just said there. You have no guarantees that these images will be able to be used again. So if the presentation is a hit and you have to get one of those images turned into a set of leaflets, or a pop up banner. Who is to say you will not have to buy more credits again? Then you’d have to add on your costs of printing, design, and delivery of the final promotional pieces.

Do you know that for a similar price, you could have employed a fellow local SME photographer to help you out? I’m proud to charge a very reasonable rate of £600 for a full day of my photographic time. And this is extremely reasonable. Photographers who specialise in commercial work and have years on me, and more technical know how, are well within their rights to charge double or triple of what I ask for. And then again on the same scale, lets not forget the amateurs, and the newbie students out there. As a rule students are instructed (by reputable colleges and tutors) to charge for their time, out of respect to the industry. If a dude tells you he can do the job for £50, do not be surprised if what you end up with is nearer to image B than image A. And, if you decide to scrimp and go with a student, do so with a clear expectation. The student will take much longer to turn the job around, and if they forget to do a crucial part of the job, its fine, they are learning, that’s why you got a big discount.

If you took the choice of supporting a fellow business the possibilities are blown wide open from the restrictions of that Google search pane. Do you want a cloud of smoke in the shot? Do you want that blue of your shirt to match the blue in your brand EXACTLY? Do you really hate that mole on your chin and really want it to look like it was never there? All of these things can be easily accommodated when you go down the route of creating your very own bank of images. Whatsmore, the value you get from them is so much greater than “going stock”. Any professional photographer should issue you with a clear cut licence to images once they have been edited and produced to your requirements. This licence will prove to anyone out there that you own the images in a commercial capacity. This means you can whack it out on a leaflet, on a pop up banner, on a billboard, or even in the stand at the next Champions League Match. You can do all of that as part of the money you paid to the photographer. Now, if you decide to enter the picture into an international contest, say the next Pirelli Calendar, and say it belongs to your business, then I’m sure the photographer you worked with, is probably going to meet you in court. After all, they were the person who created it, and if you read the fine print on the licence you should have been issued with, then you will find it says the photographer retains ownership of the image up to 70 years after the day they snuff it. Many photographers leave their copyright to successors as part of their wills. (just a little bit of trivia there for you).

So, in summary then. Take a good look over your site, your social media, and all of your promotional tools. Now look specifically at the imagery you have on them all. Is it consistent? Do they all represent the values of your brand? Are they current? Are they innovative?

Then maybe its time to chat with a photographer.

Laura is the founder of Pearman Photography. She has a studio in Felling, Gateshead and has been in business for 5 years. After working in the corporate sector, Laura got into photography during a round the world adventure. She graduated at the top of her class in Commercial Photography and then went on to work for some noted Photographers in a variety of fields. With a mutli-ranging set of skills, she now offers a range of photographic services from her studio, and out across the North east region to the rest of the UK.

Mastermind Groups

The concept of the Mastermind Group was formally introduced by Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s when he wrote “Think and Grow Rich”.

“No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.” – Napoleon Hill

The beauty of Mastermind Groups is that participants raise the bar by challenging each other to create and implement goals, brainstorm ideas, and support each other with total honesty and respect. Mastermind participants act as catalysts for growth, devil’s advocates and supportive colleagues.

Being part of a Mastermind group can provide you with the following benefits:

• A solid support network
• Being held accountable for you progress
• A platform to share ideas
• Knowledge and experience of others
• Motivation
• A sounding board for new ideas and concepts

Typically, Mastermind groups meet on a monthly basis (online or offline) to brainstorm and discuss matters of interest to the group. All members should be committed to the group and “give” and “take” in equal measures. The group facilitator organises and runs the meeting, ensuring that all members get benefit from the discussions.

If you are not yet part of a Mastermind group, search online to join one or create your own group. When scouting for potential members, keep the following in mind:

• Each member should be able to commit to the meetings
• Each member should be willing to share knowledge and skills with the group
• Member experience and skill levels can differ – create variety
• Members should be driven to achieve/exceed their own goals
• Members should be inspiring, energetic and motivating (avoid negative energy)

Are you part of a Mastermind group? Share your experiences in the comments below.

OMG This Book is Excellent!


I recently had the opportunity to attend an event in Sunderland where Geoff Ramm was the guest speaker. The event itself was brilliant and Geoff’s talk was indeed very inspirational and thought provoking ….but….here’s what I really want to share with you: I managed to lay my hands on a copy of Geoff’s book, OMG (Observational Marketing Greats).

What an exciting book! Geoff shares some of the most brilliant marketing ideas he has come across in his travels all over the globe. From “plant-able” business cards to sexy text and “Maggie the Milkshake”. It’s all right there in OMG – dazzling marketing ideas to feast on.

For me personally, the chapter about exhibition stands was most relevant, as I am just starting to plan my own upcoming exhibition stand. Gone are the days of boring “same old, same old” stands at a business expo. Geoff has inspired me to get my thinking cap on and get creative!

“When creativity meets opportunity, great marketing happens” – Geoff Ramm

My rating for OMG by Geoff Ramm? 5 Stars!